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The Pruitt Report: Supreme Court Decisions You Need to Watch

June is the Busiest Month for the Supreme Court. Just How Will This Year's Decisions Impact Your Every Day Life?

Article Written by Jett James Pruitt

As the United States gradually normalizes from a year of enormous change, the Supreme Court faces a wave of decisions that will define legal precedent for decades to come.

Historically, June has been the busiest time for the nine-member bench. As a result, legal analysts expect the Court to release rulings this month on contentious issues ranging from healthcare to religious liberty.

Most analysts have focused their attention on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the latest addition to the Supreme Court. Appointed by former President Donald J. Trump, Barrett has presumably solidified a 6-3 conservative majority.

While her jurisprudence on the court has yet to be fully assessed, it will be captivating to see how she rules in upcoming cases.

Here are the top five cases that will be decided in upcoming days:

#1 - California v. Texas

The Supreme Court will decide whether the individual mandate is unconstitutional and if it can be severed from the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

For context, the ACA—more commonly known as Obamacare—requires private health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, and allows individuals without insurance to obtain healthcare through state and federal means.

Perhaps the most controversial section of the law is the individual mandate, which institutes a financial penalty for those who do not purchase health insurance.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Seblius that the individual mandate is a tax, and is therefore permissible under the Constitution’s Taxing and Spending Clause.

Years later, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In short, the law lowered the financial penalty enforcing the individual mandate to zero, rendering it ineffective. Consequently, Texas and several other states filed a lawsuit against the constitutionality of the individual mandate; California, et al., joined the case to defend it.

The Supreme Court granted a review of the case on March 2, 2020 and heard oral arguments on November 10, 2020. For a more detailed analysis of the case, read “Why ‘California v. Texas’ is the Harbinger of Supreme Court Healthcare Decisions to Come, by Jett James Pruitt.

#2 - Fulton v. City of Philadelphia

The Supreme Court will rule in a contentious religious liberty / LGBTQIA+ case.

In March 2018, the city of Philadelphia terminated a social services contract with a Catholic charity that refused to authorize same-sex couples as potential foster parents. The charity sued the city, arguing that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment entitled it to reject same-sex couples based on religious objections.

The charity asked the district court to impose a preliminary injunction, which would have renewed their contract with the city. The district court denied the charity’s request, and the Third Circuit Court affirmed. Put simply, the courts determined that the city’s non-discrimination policy was neutral and only served to protect marginalized individuals. Moreover, the courts ruled that the city did not target the charity for its religious beliefs.

When the Court’s ruling is released, this case is expected to define the scope of religious freedom in a significant way, impacting charitable organizations for years to come.

The Supreme Court granted a review of the case on February 24, 2020 and heard oral arguments on November 4, 2020.

# 3 - Mahanoy Area School District v. Brandi Levy

The Supreme Court will assess the extent to which schools can regulate profane speech by juvenile students. Brandi Levy, a student at Mahanoy Area High School in Pennsylvania, failed to make her high school’s varsity cheerleading team; for context, she still made the school’s junior varsity team.

The weekend after varsity team tryouts (and notably, off the school’s campus) Levy posted a picture of herself on Snapchat with an indecorous caption expressing her anger at not making the varsity team. The post was visible to hundreds of people, and she was consequently suspended from the junior varsity team for a year.

Through her parents, Brandi Levy sued the school. Her core defense is that the First Amendment prohibits public school officials from regulating off-campus speech. The district court ruled in favor of Levy, and the Third Circuit Court affirmed.

If the Supreme Court support's Levy's right to free speech, this case may be applied to the practice of colleges rescinding offers of admission based on speech made on social media.

The Supreme Court granted a review of the case on January 8, 2021 and heard oral arguments on April 28, 2021.

#4 - National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Alston

The Supreme Court will determine whether the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is violating federal antitrust law by restricting education-related compensation to college athletes. Several Division 1 athletes filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, arguing that its restrictions on “non-cash education-related benefits” violate the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

The district court ruled in favor of the litigants, determining that the NCAA must provide certain types of academic benefits to college athletes. While the district court ruled that the NCAA can limit cash awards for academic purposes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in favor of the petitioners.

The Circuit Court recognized the NCAA’s desire in “preserving amateurism,” but ruled that its practices still violate antitrust law.

If this case is upheld, NCAA athletes may have a stronger argument for lucrative corporate endorsements during their college years.

The Supreme Court granted a review of the case on December 16, 2020 and heard oral arguments on March 31, 2021.

#5 - Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee

The Supreme Court will determine whether certain voting policies adversely affect minority groups, and therefore, violate federal law.

Known as a bellwether case that will test the strength of laws recently passed by states most concerned about voter fraud, this case challenges two of Arizona's voting provisions:

The first concerns the prohibition of assisting voters with the filling out and return of their ballots, and the second is the administrative practice of discarding ballots cast at the wrong precinct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated both provisions, describing it as a "pattern of discrimination." Either way, this case has tremendous political overtones.

If the Supreme Court reverses this decision, it will exacerbate political tensions regarding the perceived balance between voter integrity and voter suppression.

The Supreme Court granted a review of the case on October 2, 2020 and heard oral arguments on March 2, 2021.

Therefore, June 2021 will be an important month on the calendar. The decisions made in these cases—along with a powerhouse of issues comprising the upcoming 2021-2022 Supreme Court docket—will have a significant impact on key aspects of everyday life for all Americans.

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